Castoreum is used primarily in fragrances these days, much like musks are used. Musk, like castoreum to beavers, is extracted from a gland near a deer’s penis,
and adds depth and warmth to a fragrance — giving it a sweet, leathery molasses evocation.
American Beavers at the Smithsonian National Zoo, in Washington, D.C.
In perfumery, the term castoreum refers to the resinoid extract resulting from the dried and alcohol tinctured beaver castor.
The dried beaver castor sacs are generally aged for two or more years to mellow.
In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration lists castoreum extract as a generally recognized as safe (GRAS) food additive. In 1965, the Flavor and Extract Manufacturers Association’s GRAS program (FEMA 2261 and 2262) added castoreum extract and castoreum liquid.The annual industry consumption is very low, around 300 pounds, whereas vanillin is over 2.6 million pounds annually.
Castoreum has been traditionally used in Sweden for flavoring a variety of schnapps commonly referred to as “Bäverhojt”
Castoreum was also considered for use to contribute to the flavor and odor of cigarettes.
Medieval beekeepers used castoreum to increase honey production.